― 2 ―

The Promised Land


(Terra Austrialia del Espiritu Santo)

IN Callao the church bells ring,
The pious people kneel and pray,
The Mass is said, the sweet choirs sing
For “such as tempt the sea to-day.”
But never merchant sailed so far
For spice and gold and ivory,
As these who track Adventure's star
Across a grey and ghostly sea.
Westward they watched them sinking slow
Three hundred lazy years ago,
Hull down, hull down from Callao
For “Terra Austrialia del Espiritu Santo!”

O was it wrack of wind and wave,
Or lost Atlantis of the south
Snatched from a wisp of dream that drave
'Twixt black horned capes of doom and drouth,
Or was it some prophetic tone
From white peaks of that Morning caught
When brooding Godhead walked alone
And Cosmos quickened at His thought,
That all De Quiros' spirit stirred,
And wide-winged like a wild sea-bird
Followed the Vision and the Word . . . .
O “Terra Austrialia del Espiritu Santo!”

They brought him home across the sea,
The craven ones, the mutineers,
To sit with Grief and make his plea
Through nine and twenty barren years —
Just one more ship with swallow wings
To beat again enchanted bounds

  ― 3 ―
Where the white Cross in heaven swings,
And league-long rollers race like hounds
Slipt from the leash of pack and floe
From kennels of Antarctic snow,
To bear him where he fain would go . . . .
Ah “Terra Austrialia del Espiritu Santo!”

They built the ship, they brought the men,
They gave the seal unto his hand,
De Quiros blessed his God again,
And saw in faith his Promised Land.

They dipped the flags that very day,
They tolled the bells and women wept,
His swallow ship at anchor lay,
De Quiros, spent with labour, slept . . . .
Afar from those enchanted seas
That lave the branching coral trees
Through all the dreaming centuries
By “Terra Austrialia del Espiritu Santo!”

The dreamers dream their dreams and die;
Perhaps with hope their heaven is starred;
Their way was rude, their goal was high,
The stuff of dreams was their reward.
In Lima town of old Peru,
Lulled by the long Pacific wave,
And the soft Trade wind sighing through
Green feather palm and belled agave,
De Quiros sleeps and men forget;
His Cross of stars is blazing yet
In thy celestial coronet,
O “Terra Austrialia del Espiritu Santo!”

  ― 4 ―



O late last comer at the feast of nations,
Australia, what meats shall be thy share?
And what thy measure of the vine's oblations?
Or god-like inspiration . . . . or despair?
A splendid savage, thou, with loins unwrung,
And the proud speech of freemen on thy tongue.

Dreaming they found thee, when the noontide splendour
Of Europe's pride had dwindled down to grey,
When Greece and Rome had sunken in surrender
To baser triumphs of a lesser day.
Dreaming they found thee, Oldest of the Old,
With youth eternal on thy forehead bold.

Winds of the world had waked thy singing sedges
Ere Grecian vultures wheeled at Marathon;
Old rivers gnawed upon thy granite ledges
When Samson trod the streets of Ascalon
Drunken with conquest, and Delilah's grace
Betrayed him captive to her conquered race.

Grandeur of grief that man has never measured
Presses thy temples like a crown of thorn,
Hope that the bounds of dream have never treasured
Sleeps in thy heart for peoples yet unborn,
Spirit Inscrutable-from whose dim fane
A sobbing plover stabs the night with pain.

  ― 5 ―
By hill and cutting, still, with lank hair streaming,
Like weed to every wind, thy she-oaks stand;
O'er what wild company of fevered dreaming
Did their thin music wave its wizard wand?
Old fiddlers grey that Time has held in thrall
Within a great deserted banquet-hall,

Where long since, all the rippled song and laughter
That wakened echo's ecstasy are gone,
And fitful minor wails through ridge and rafter
For those brave ghosts that jested here anon . . . .
Fisher and hunter, warrior spear and crest,
Thy dusky host whose sullen star dips west.

Dreaming they found thee and with hands audacious
Had bound on thee old burdens of despair,
Dark legacies of darker climes ungracious,
And growths too grim for Christian land to bear;
Deeming thee less for thy long dreaming's sake,
Nor reeking of the day when thou must wake;

Deeming thee barren that, unburdened, idled
By estrange Saharas of unslaked desire;
Deeming thee worthless that no hand had bridled
With tinselled trappings of an older Tyre
O Dauntless One, that proved with scourge and rod,
And winnowed men with very winds of God,

What Tyrian stint thy reckless wealth shall measure?
What slave-oared galleys thy great cargoes bear?
Solomon's hoard grows mean beside the treasure
Thy rock and range and river-bed declare;
Nor queen of old was clad in garb so fine
As clothes the flocks on those far hills of thine.

  ― 6 ―
A chooser thou, not chosen for the spilling
Or for the saving as thy choosers will,
No empty vessel purchased for the filling,
Thou beatest out thy haughty purpose still;
The witnesses thy solitudes retain ....
Grey bones that crumble where they first had lain.

Who fared with Fate — who followed a far gleaming,
As vain as thy mirage — and bit thy dust —
Of English lanes and cool green meadows dreaming . . . .
Alone have seen unveiled thy face august . . . .
And turned from it with their last shuddering breath
To pray for pity at the hands of Death.

Priests of thy fierce immensities, intoning
Like muffled magi in thy spectral trees,
Petulant winds across thy great plains moaning,
Whisper thine immemorial elegies;
And phantom fingers pluck to Winter's stars
The eerie lute-strings of thy black belars.

And we thy native-born who waked to wonder
Of morning magpies' fluted madrigals,
Or trembled when with roll of muffled thunder
The mad red horses broke their cloudy stalls,
And, where wide wheatland to the river wheels,
Swung down with desolation at their heels —

Yea, we who feel thy hidden pulses throbbing
In great autumnal anthems of the gums,
In Banshee winds down sunset gullies sobbing
Or red December's braggart battle drums,
Thrill to the incense thy great censers spill,
Diablerie that melts and mocks us still.

  ― 7 ―
For thou art tender, pitiless great Mother,
To those who shrink not from thy bitter cup,
To those who flinch not in the savage smother
Without the courts wherein thy victors sup;
Hyssop and honey, yea, for bread a stone . . . .
But heart of thy heart, courage as thine own —

Who set their tents beside thy grey Gulf Waters,
Who tracked the leads that star thy western lodes,
Who follow still, brave sons and braver daughters,
Where the lean pack-train threads the flinty roads,
To wrest from Bush Primeval wine of dreams,
Or darker vintage drawn from Lethean streams.

Haply it may he that some spark titanic
Sprang like a super-soul from those grim years
When wrestled with thy janitors tyrannic
The splendid spirit of the Pioneers;
A super-soul to write with Time and thee
The mightiest page of human history.

Such history as later years' evangels
Seeing may trace on some celestial page
For calm o'erseeing eyes of the Archangels;
And God may smile to see a golden age
Ripen beneath thy vault of burning blue
To that fulfilment men nor angels knew.

Strange stories of the gods remain to mortals
From some dim era when the world was young:
Did human error slam the sacred portals
Or god-like anger seal the human tongue,
That so the link is lost, nor gods nor men
Reforge it on this troubled earth again?

  ― 8 ―
It may be so, yet some diviner story
Breathes from thy hills — the Vision and the Word
That drew De Quiros with their burning glory
Through dark sea-wastes no friendly keel had stirred
Move like a pillared flame unto their goal . . . .
The Alcheringa of thy dreaming soul!

So from thy dreaming time thou comest, bringing
A sun-god race that knows not how to fear,
A sun-god race to set new slogans ringing,
And bid a sad world be of better cheer;
Sons of thy mettle yet all laughter-wise,
With the young light of morning in their eyes.

They are not yet — with unsealed sense discerning
The pathless way that points the hidden goal,
The lode-star in a clouded heaven burning,
The under-song in Wisdom's over-soul:
They are not yet, in truth, yet who shall say?
East from the murk of Europe breaks the day.

Yon night that heavy on the west is lying
Shudders, with Cosmic vengeance tempested,
O'er shattered shrine and famished children dying,
O'er women desecrate and manhood sped
To fence old failures, buttress craven creeds,
Draconian laws to bind what Folly breeds.

But thou art of the morning — Youth eternal
On thee has laid her mantle for a sign;
Shalt thou who tasted of a cup supernal
Tipple with tapsters of a brew malign?
Lift up thy gates and fling thy portals wide
For the New Order, purged and purified.

  ― 9 ―
When old lights flicker and old faiths are reeling,
From upland fanes floats incense far more sweet,
Where magpie matins through thy gums are pealing,
And the young winds are singing in the wheat,
Than ever shrouded sacrificial rite
Of Earth's wan millions climbing toward the light.

The gods shall come again, nor shrined ascetic,
Nor swagman, poring still thy wayside page,
Nor seer nor sibyl know the hour prophetic
That brings the coming of thy golden age.
When southern Sigurds forth thy Fafnirs drive,
Australia Felix, shall the gods arrive.

Australia Felix! Yea, by glad seas bounded,
Lion of lands no hunters' wiles have won;
Till bugler Time the last, “Retreat” has sounded,
And o'er the tumult booms the sunset gun,
Thy Titan hands shall wrest the secret keys
Of progress from the groaning centuries.

O Watcher on a sea-washed tower uplifted
To the white wonder of the morning star,
That sees, beyond the dawn, the Orient rifted
With war accurséd and the things of war
A blur of carrion wings to cloud the smiles
Of the green gladness of Pacific Isles!

Lift up thy gates! Still, still there cometh, riding
Upon an ass's colt as once of old
Unto Jerusalem, a prophet hiding
His glory in a humble mantle's fold.
Lift up thy gates — a mad world has decreed
Its own damnation — Shall thy children bleed?

  ― 10 ―
Let the old order go! — new faiths shall quicken,
New revelations flood the ways untrod,
Levin the vales where old disorders thicken,
And Justice shuffles at a monster's nod.
Bid usurers and money-changers go . . . .
That made our fathers' house a house of woe!

Aye, sound the clear call high above the fretting
Turmoil of Trade and blood-feud of the West . . . .
Let the old order go! — new tides are setting
To Eldorados man hath never guessed;
And they shall deal no more in fears and hates
Who dwell with thee beside the Eastern Gates.